Still, if your bank account isn't so bountiful, you can always take the freebie volunteer route. No guarantee at this late date that you'll get an email response from organizers, but it's worth a try. Just don't pull the lamest volunteer stunt ever -- disappearing when it's time to clean up. Shame on you!
To make the most of the festival, we recommend these four events:
1. Thursday night's Opening Reception at Union Square, $125: See TyFlo and various chefs and bar talent (Brooke Arthur, Martin Cate, Marco Dionysos, Dominic Venegas, Thad Vogler, Carlos Yturria, Neyah White, Reza Esmaili) dish out the goods. Hey, since the reception is sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle, you may even spot Michael Bauer! Chefs from Chez Papa Resto, Aziza, Pizzeria Zanna Bianca, Corso, Gitane/Café Claude, The Chef's Table, Circa, Butterfly, Absinthe, Poleng Lounge, Midi, RNM, Frances, and the Moss Room will be there.
2. The gay Friday night dinner at Orson (508 Fourth St. at Bryant), or Out in the Fog, if you must: $95. This Project Open Hand benefit includes custom cocktails, food, wine, and dancing. Some fabulous gays will be cooking and attending this one: Harry Denton, Elizabeth Falkner, Sabrina Riddle, Emily Wines, Andrew Freeman, Jennifer Biesty, Jamie Lauren, James Ormsby, and more.
3. Saturday's three-course sommelier lunch at Restaurant Michael Mina (335 Powell at Geary): $150. The price may make you swoon, but go if you love lobster and wine. There'll be a serious bevy of wine industry stars and educators including Larry Stone (the lunch is in his honor), Michael Green, Rajat Parr, Debbie Zachareas, and Shelley Lindgren.
4. Saturday night's Urban BBQ on the (Union) Square: $95. This four-hour evening event sounds fun and tasty. Soulful food? Check. Sounds? Check - yes, the Back Burner Blues Band is slated to play. Each chef-rocker band member has a slew of Bay Area experience, and the audience and band will create a big ole batch of gumbo during the performance.